Land granted for new development in the past year will produce a record number of flats, the Lands Department says. The figures are evidence the Government has made some progress in its drive to ease surging demand for housing. Acting Director of Lands Mo Chan-ming said the Lands Department had disposed of enough land to build 67,000 luxury and mass residential flats for private and government-subsidised housing in the 1996-97 financial year. It was the highest figure in the department's disposal history and was considerably above the level achieved in the previous two years. Land released in the 1994-95 financial year was enough to build 37,000 flats and the supply of land in 1995-96 should result in the provision of 42,000 new units. 'The move has tied in with the Government's objective of increasing housing supply,' Mr Mo said. However, this year's number was lower than the Lands Department's earlier estimate of 79,000 flats. The failure to complete processing of land exchange or lease modification for several developments last year was to blame, he said. He expected these applications to be processed in the next few months, boosting the amount of new land for flats to be granted this financial year. Mr Mo yesterday declined to forecast the supply of flats from land sales this financial year until the land disposal programme was fixed by the Sino-British Land Commission. The Commission, which meets today, will discuss the land disposal programme for the period from April 1 to June 30. Land sales after the handover will be decided by the Special Administrative Region government. Mr Mo said last year's supply had come mainly from land exchanges and lease modifications along with the Government's private treaty grants to the Mass Transit Railway Corp's property developments along the new airport railway. It had also come from land sales through public tenders and auctions. According to the Lands Department, the number of flats due to be built from land sales last year for government-subsidised housing is about 26,600 units, against 19,382 in 1995-96. The supply of land for private housing granted in 1996-97 can produce 40,400 flats. This compares with 23,118 in 1995-96. Units expected from land sales last year were due to come on to the market in the next three years, helping to alleviate future demand for housing, Mr Mo said. He said the great improvement was attributable to the Lands Department's efforts in speeding up the processing of lease modification and land exchange applications. To speed up processing, the department has formed a fast-track team to handle land transactions and disposals. It had also introduced a series of measures aimed at streamlining regulatory activities, Mr Mo said. The department was trying to computerise further in an effort to shorten the time spent processing applications. It also planned to contract out part of its valuation jobs and some of its legal work to private surveyors and legal representatives. It will seek funding for such works at a meeting with the Finance Committee on April 25.